Re: [XTalk] The Streetlight Fallacy
- Gordon Raynal wrote: "The question: Why "the creeps?""
All of this effort going into a project that seems to be hopeless is
creepy. Or at least it seems hopeless given the set of questions
that are presently being asked.
If one asks different sorts of questions, such as
"what was the state of affairs vis a vis what became Christianity
before Paul's letters?" without presupposing that the answer
should necessarily principally include a person's biography, well
then some sort of progress might be possible.
GR "Comments: 1. If Mark is what we have, then in principle no
historical research can be done. One has to have more than one
source, eh;)? All the talk about "Mark's historical reliability"
or "trustworthiness as a historical resource" is simply an assertion
without data to back it up. As you note, going on to Matthew and
Luke is of no help whether they derived their stories textually or
from "oral traditions," for where there is repetition, then it's
Mark's basic story being repeated and then for all those confounding
changes that are either shared or unique to each, we have no source
materials for them. We're stuck with single sources and one can do
no research beyond that! I wouldn't use "creeps," (and am interested
in why you do) I'd just say that we should stop pretending to do
Indeed so. In fact the movement for the past couple decades seems to
be toward doubting Mark's historical value. As I wrote before,
fairly reliable people argue that Mark's beginning is fiction,
Mark's conclusion is fiction, Jesus' basic self-presentation
(chapters 8 10, 13) is fiction, the nature miracles are fiction
and it is certainly not the case that there were in fact demons with
whom he discussed his identity issues. Who really thinks that the
individual incidents reported are ones that really happened? Jesus
and his disciples were walking through a field stealing grain
when Jesus went back to Nazareth and then and so forth.
Heck, people underestimate IMO the significance of the fact that
those who revised Mark, and I think I'll include John, disagreed
pretty profoundly with it. That's why they rewrote it, that's
why Luke made a preface denigrating those previous sources he was
stuck with. But they do not seem to have had anything else to work
with. They don't know anything biographical that's new or
different, just that they don't like the Mark's persepectives
on various matters.
It's also creepy how Mark must necessarily have relied, if his
history includes anything like actual factual reports, on sources
that it is his principal purpose to denigrate. The idiotic betraying
disciples and the family who thought him possessed or mad and who he
rejected, these are presumably the sources Mark relies upon for his
account, especially for the central chapters and chapter 13, and
etc. It's actually rather post-modern of him to write a book
showing the utter unreliability of the persons whose reporting is
purportedly the foundation of his text.
GR "2. Despite all the assertions for those who want to be
heirs of Schweitzer's reading of Mark, I'm not sure why they want to
call Jesus "an apocalyptic prophet." Mark's Jesus is no such thing,
he's the suffering servant messiah who is glorified to heavenly
rule. This is right clear from the first sentence, eh;)? And the
legacy of this group is not best described as an apocalyptic
community, but a cultic community. That the apocalyptic resources
were utilized as **part** of casting who this messianic figure was
goes without saying, but Jesus is more importantly cast in terms of
classical prophecy, the Davidic covenant, the role of new Moses and
Solomonic wisdom (and let's not forget Melkizidek:)!). That some
communities early on went a bit zoo-y on "end times" ferment only
tells us that some of those Gentiles didn't quite get the
ramifications of Jewish eschatological thought (this sort of zoo-i-
ness has a rather long history, itself). All the Gospels, yes, even
Mark, are exegetical works meant for what they've been used for for
nigh onto 2 millennia now... feasting celebration, sermonizing,
scriptural reflection, etc. If we want to peer underneath Mark's
messiah (and to do this one has to affirm some resources available
to us from such as Paul, Thomas, Q, the Didache, Josephus... so we
have more than one source to work with), well this goes to show, in
my view, that Mark didn't think Jesus was "an apocalyptic prophet"
either:)! One who "only speaks in parables" isn't doing prophetic
utterances by any definition from the Hebraic heritage!"
I agree for sure. Mark's Jesus is apocalyptic in pieces, but that
is not primarily Mark's main point by any means. The only time he
really gets off on God's impending slaughter of humanity is in
chapter 13, a discourse heard by 4 souls who are, if we accept the
overall narrative, pretty much guaranteed not to understand it. And
isn't it generally concluded that somewhere between little and
none of it was actually spoken by Jesus?
Paul is said to be quite the apocalyptic fellow and a firm Jesusite
and yet there is not a single time when we agree that Paul
accurately calls upon the sayings of Jesus to support his
apocalyptic views. If Jesus was mainly an apocalyptus why has this
been forgotten by Paul? Of course, IF we want to say that Mark's
is a fictional Jesus, then the apocalypticism of Mark (cptr 13) will
have been retrojected there from the later apocalyptic groups.
Thomas, of course, is anti-apocalyptic, denying directly that Jesus
taught such stuff, perhaps in response to the growing tendency to
retroject apocalypticism onto Him.
While I do not agree for a nanosecond that the gospels are "works
meant for what they've been used for" nor that Jesus was, in
Mark, that host of things you say he was cast to be, I do agree that
he is the suffering servant messiah first and foremost. And, of
course, we can be fairly sure that he didn't, if he was an
historical figure, think that that was what he was.
GR "3. Back to the other subject line about historical research +
the viability of Christianity hanging in the balance, folks would do
well to read a book like Jaroslav Pelikan's book about Christ across
the centuries. That book rather nicely lays out the many view of
Christ that have been variously created and focused on across these
2 millennia. They are numerous and they go to show the rich tapestry
of what reading the Gospels has led to. Back to Schweitzer's rather
stoic picture of a failed, but courageous millennial figure this
rather makes much sense in light of the European world at the turn
of the last century. And this is to say, that Schweitzer's
characterization fits nicely as one of the creative works of
exegetical imagination. Notably he left the schoolhouse and went off
to doctoring after this leaving the growing nightmare world for a
place where he could practice a bit of human care. If that's the
legacy of his sort of portraiture, then hey, not bad! But, of
course, the making of exegetical portraits isn't doing history."
And since the Gospels are exegetical portraits, where does that
leave us? It sure does seem that everybody creates a Jesus to fit
their own selves, doesn't it? You can criticize Schweitzer for
this, and I keep noting that Crossan's Jesus is a fine American
liberal. Preachers figure Jesus and or the evangelists were mainly
interested in sermonizing and scriptural reflections, professors
know they were primarily teachers, and Mormons find them to be
prototypical of persons of the Mormon faith. But I guess this isn't
news. Yet isn't it creepy how everybody knows that people make their
image of Jesus like themselves and yet, having acknowledged this,
away they go doing it anyhow.
Maybe the non-paralleled sayings in Thomas reflect the Real Jesus
and He was, therefore, not anything like anybody in Christendom
today. or maybe not.
- Rick wrote: "I wonder what a Galilean Darlek would look like"
I haven't a clue, but I know what one would *say*:
Incidentally, I apologise to our wonderful moderator for my earlier use of
President Bush's favourite weapon: the pre-emotive strike!!
JOHN E STATON
Penistone, Sheffield UK